When oil artist Gregory Balogh first opened his Cedros gallery three years ago, he had no paintings to sell.
The opportunity for him to gain gallery space happened quite suddenly when fellow painter, John Moseley, invited him to share a larger space with him.
"It was like voila - I had a gallery, but I basically had no paintings," Balogh said. "I started painting koi fish because I've always loved them."
Fortunately for Balogh, many fish lovers in San Diego County feel the same way about koi, and Balogh's paintings of the shimmering creatures captured their attention in a big way.
"There is a whole society of people who are into koi fish that I didn't realize at the time, so it was auspicious that I started painting them," he said.
According to Balogh, painting koi comes easily for him.
"They're amazing and lend themselves to paintings because they're the epitome of movement - fish never sit still," he said. "I love their colors and I was able to explore the idea of color and design, using gold leaf underneath."
Koi continue to be golden for Balogh, who is now working on "Good Fortune," a 5-by-9 foot commission for a high-end apartment building in Los Angeles' Koreatown.
"It's kind of a feng shui thing," he said. "There are nine fish and one is black."
Balogh was far from a novice in the art world when he opened his gallery. A self-taught artist, he's been drawing his entire life.
"I've always been able to see what I want to put down on canvas," he said. "It's a natural talent, but for a long time I thought that everybody could do it."
Balogh took that talent to Palomar College where in 1989 he earned a degree in graphic design with a minor in illustration.
"When I got my bachelor's in graphic design, that's when the whole computer thing hit, so I was pretty much obsolete right away," he said. "But that wasn't where I wanted to go anyway. I really wanted to be a fine artist."
After graduating, he received a few mural commissions and, before long, he was also doing faux finishing and Venetian plasterwork for his own decorative painting business. While he remained eager to paint fine art, he still lacked the necessary studio space. But in 2006, Balogh was ready to make a major career change.
"I hung up my faux painter hat because I knew that I had way more in me than just painting peoples' walls," he said.
Balogh hasn't stopped painting since and works full time, painting in his studio every day.
"This is what I love to do," he said. If I'm going to be master painter, I have to paint every day."
His painting repertoire is not limited to koi fish. The local landscape frequently drives Balogh's brush. He is currently preparing a show for the Arts for Healing program at Scripps Encinitas Hospital (Nov. 15 – Jan. 15). His show will showcase 25 pieces of his work, featuring Batiquitos, San Elijo and San Dieguito lagoons.
"They're realistic but they're not so much depictions of the actual places," Balogh said. "I go out and do little studies and use parts from different lagoons. They're very peaceful, quiet paintings."
Having grown up near the lagoons, Balogh also wants to help preserve their natural beauty.
An admirer of Rothko's color squares, Balogh, is now exploring his own fields of color and recently devised a new style of painting. Up close a painting done in his new style looks like just a large field of color, but when the viewer steps back from it, the figure of a woman's back becomes clearly visible.
"My goal is that it works as a color painting first - it's all about the color, not the figure," he said. "But I also wanted to paint a figure in a way that I hadn't seen before, that was a little challenging."
Balogh plans to continue painting figures because he thinks they're the ultimate challenge and that it's the ultimate accomplishment to complete a great figure with a great likeness.
Visit Balogh's gallery at 341 S. Cedros, Suite A, in Solana Beach or view his work at